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Notes to Self

A page of Jacob’s travel diary during a trip to India, 1996. Photo by Sarah Blesener.

Mira Jacob’s Notes to Self

It began, as so many cultural inquiries do, with some confusion about Michael Jackson. The summer of 2014, Mira Jacob’s son (we’ll call him Z) was obsessed with the singer, which is to be expected of a six-year-old who knows what’s what. But any path into Jackson’s story, especially for a child of color (Jacob is Indian American; her husband is Jewish) invariably ends up in the territory of disconnect, the before and after of his complexion, making the pop star’s story, like the larger American one, a bit difficult to explain. What began with an obsessive imitation of the backstep from “Beat It” led to heavy rotation on the family turntable, with albums strewn across the room. “And then it was obvious,” Jacob recalls, “because Michael’s face is so big on those albums. You can see his skin get lighter. So of course Z begins to ask: Who is this person? How did this thing happen? Will it happen to us?”

Marc Burckhardt’s Notes to Self

Recently, painter Marc Burckhardt has been in a deep “visual conversation” with literature—specifically, with Petrarch’s Triumphs, a sequence of poems from the Italian Renaissance in which Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity each overcomes the other. Burckhardt first came across Triumphs nearly a year ago, while working on a series based on Dante’s Inferno. As he often does with literary works, he looked into their visual history, and in doing so found “a deep well of imagery—stuff I recognized through a kind of peripheral appreciation.” Since then, working between studios in Austin, Texas, and Bremen, Germany, he’s has been studying, sketching, crumpling sketches, starting over, and taking notes for a series of allegorical paintings that reflect his personal connection to Petrarch’s themes, to be included in an October show at Gallery Shoal Creek, in Austin, Texas.

Drawings of the twelve labors of Hercules, part of Tinti’s thematic map for her new novel.

Hannah Tinti’s Notes to Self

Tinti recognized herself in Barry’s portrait of the lapsed artist. “I took her lecture to heart,” she says, and decided to commit herself to doodling, sketching, drawing.